Most Precious Possession

(Homily for Corpus Christi Sunday 2012 - Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ, Year B)

Bottom line: As we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we recognize the Eucharist as our most precious possession. In spite of life's disappointments and tragedies - and in spite of our own sins and failings - the Eucharist makes it through.

Today is Corpus Christi Sunday - the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ. To illustrate the role of the Eucharist in our lives and in human history, I ask you to imagine this scene:

It is an intersection with a stoplight. On one corner a boy shows off his new bike while another looks on with sad eyes. Behind them a lady consumes her second chocolate sundae. Across the street a store owner counts his money while the hired hand lies back in a chair and a youth flips through magazines. A driver honks his horn at the car ahead of him. As the light turns green, a parish minister drives through to take Communion to a nursing home.

What does this scene represent? First, it illustrates the seven capital sins. The employee laying back in his chair represents sloth or laziness. The lady with the second sundae is gluttony. The boy flipping through magazines, lust. The owner counting money, avarice or greed. The driver honking, anger or rage. The boy with the bicycle - a certain kind of pride. The bicycle is not so much a means of transport as a way of showing his superiority. The other boy is looking on with envy. He doesn't so much want his own bicycle as he wants the proud boy to have a wreck!

We can all recognize the capital sins. They effect even children. And when you look at human history, you can see that arrogance, envy, greed, wrath and so one have been at the root of our conflicts. They make human history a sad story.

But there is something else here. At that intersection, when the light turns green, the Eucharist goes through it all. The Eucharist makes it through - even our sins and failures.

Blessed Pope John Paul II said, "the Eucharist is the Church's most precious possession in her journey through history." In this life - so often marked by disappointment and tragedy - we have nothing greater that the Body and Blood of Christ.

I have been a priest for over forty years. I have had my good days and bad days - lazy days and crazy days. I have shared wonderful joy with people, but also horrendous suffering. Through it all, what has sustained me is the Eucharist. My greatest privilege has been to celebrate Mass.

I hope the Lord gives me more years of priestly service. But, I have to say that one of my great inspirations is a man who had a very short priesthood. His name was Karl Leisner. He was teenager when the Nazis took control of Germany. As a theology student, he worked to form youth groups independent of the government. In 1939, at the age of 24, the famous Bishop Galen ordained him a deacon. That same year the Nazis arrested Deacon Leisner and sent him to the Dachau concentration camp. For five years he suffered extreme mistreatment and humiliation. On December 17, 1944, a French bishop - who was a fellow prisoner - ordained Karl Leisner to the priesthood. Liberation came in May, but Fr. Leisner was so ill that he died a few months later.

Pope John Paul beatified Karl Leisner when he visited Berlin in 1996. The feast day of Blessed Karl Leisner is August 12, the date of his death. He was a priest for less than eight months. To celebrate Mass in prison and afflicted with tuberculosis was a Calvary for the young priest.

Although few of us - please God - will have to suffer as Blessed Karl Leisner did, still for us the Eucharist is Calvary. When we participate in Mass, we stand at the foot of the cross together with the Blessed Virgin, St. John and all the saints.

As we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we recognize the Eucharist as our most precious possession. In spite of life's disappointments and tragedies - and in spite of our own sins and failings - the Eucharist makes it through. Amen.

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Spanish Version

From Archives (Corpus Christi - Year B):

2015: Through Him Week 1: A Dynamic Presence
2012: Afflicted with Hunger
2009: What Have I Given You?
2006: Language of the Body
2003: To Worship His Body and Blood
2000: Combatting Impatience

From Archives:

2015: Through Him Week 1: A Dynamic Presence
2014: Like Someone Dying of Hunger
2013: Eucharistic Coherence
2012: Afflicted with Hunger
2011 Corpus Christi Homily: Afflicted with Hunger
2010: Why Do I Have To Go To Mass?
2009: What Have I Given You?
2008: Who May Receive Communion?
2007: Our Daily Bread
2006: Language of the Body
2005: Reverence for Eucharist
2004: Communion for Kerry?
2003: To Worship His Body and Blood
2002: Broken Bread
2001: The Eucharist Makes It Through
2000: Combatting Impatience
1999: Notes for Homilist
1998: This is My Body
Jesus: True Bread of Life (How to Receive and Reverence the Eucharist)

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